SAN DIEGO -- Shaw's Supermarkets, East Bridgewater, Mass., is harnessing the power of automated planning programs and historical data bases to turn its warehouse delivery scheduling into an exact science.
Trucks arriving at Shaw's three distribution centers are now scheduled based on a list of criteria such as the load's importance to the buying department, the history of the carrier and the number of other trucks scheduled for that time slot.
The retailer has also eliminated potential conflict between its distribution and merchandising departments by allowing officials in both departments to collaborate electronically on schedules.
Shaw's has increased case shipments out of its warehouses by 27% and reduced inventory by 2.7% since its use of the programs began, said Robert Groebel, vice president of distribution operations.
"We wanted to minimize warehouse labor, customize scheduling and allow on-line access by the buyers to make changes," he said. "The objective was to schedule the purchase orders from multiple facilities during multiple weeks and to balance warehouse capacities and purchasing quantities."
Groebel spoke at the Food Marketing Institute's Distribution Conference here Feb. 11 to 14. The conference drew nearly 200 attendees.
Shaw's warehouse scheduling system, dubbed "Door-X," allows logistics officials to schedule deliveries on a daily or weekly basis. The program, which gives officials a day-by-day history of actual deliveries vs. projected deliveries, has led to more balanced and efficient warehouse operations, he said.
In addition, it has completely eliminated manual paperwork for both buyers and schedulers. "Door-X is PC-based and handles both inbound and outbound," Groebel said. "It eliminates all the paperwork while placing unlimited resources at the fingertips of our schedulers."
The scheduling program keeps track of more than half a million cases and 1,000 vehicles per week. Built-in criteria steer officials away from scheduling deliveries on heavy outbound shipment days like Monday and Friday and try to keep each hour relatively equal in terms of shipments.
"This system allows us to spread the receiving during the week so we don't have any one day overloaded," Groebel said.
Color-coded bar charts, which are updated every 30 seconds, give schedulers an easy-to-read method for determining which dates and times have been closed out.
Schedules are also influenced by information in adjoining data bases, including one that compiles individual carrier performances. If a carrier has a history of cancellations or delays, for example, it will be moved down in scheduling priority.
Shaw's buying department's purchase order management system has an influence on schedules as well by creating different priority levels for merchandise. The system groups purchase orders in four gradations, starting with "E," which signifies an order that must be received at the time it was originally scheduled, down to "N," which is an order that can be delivered whenever it can be fit in.
"Once all the operations are completed, the system uploads all the information back to the buyer," Groebel said. "The buyer is able to look at everything we've done and sees the time we scheduled."
"Four times during the day these [changes] are transmitted back to the logistics department," he added.
By automating communication and creating a standardized method of making changes, relations between merchandising and buying departments have greatly improved, Groebel said.